A rustling of leaves: Why the revolution is far from over

As part of this year’s DaangDokyu film festival, Nettie Wilde’s 1988 documentary A rustling of leaves: Inside the Philippine revolution showed the aftermath of the Marcos regime in the Philippines through a bold uncovering of the country’s reality a failed effort in pursuing democracy. 

The attempt for democracy  

Filipinos were filled with hope after the People Power Revolution of 1986. A new chapter of their lives was about to begin, one that emerged from the darkness that is known as the Marcos regime. However, their envisioned futures quickly dissolved into chaos when the newly elected President Corazon Aquino struggled to wrench control of the country from her own military, enduring five coup attempts due to their tenuous relationship.   

A rustling of leaves showed the perspective of the farmers and the poor while they took on a common goal to save the Philippines from the wreckage left behind by the previous administration. Their desire was powerful, but it wasn’t enough to abolish the rampant tyranny in the country. 

Contrary to popular belief, the pursuit for democracy never stopped at the People Power Revolution in EDSA. This was portrayed in the film through the documented series of violence and oppression against those who dissent against the government such as 1987’s Mendiola Massacre where farmers marched towards Malacañang to have a peaceful talk with the president. However, instead of her presence, they were met by military forces, resulting in the death of 13 individuals. It was the beginning of more revolutions to come, with the same problems compounding over the years due to corruption and neglect. No different from the dictatorship of Marcos, people are still being silenced and oppressed,  their problems falling to deaf ears over and over again. 

The start of a new revolution 

The plight of the people were ignored, so force became an option. Wilde highlights the New People’s Army (NPA) guerilla founded by Dante Buscayno, commonly known as Kumander Dante by his comrades. Like every Filipino, Kumander Dante aspired for change. He wanted the government to return what has been stolen from them, demanding land reform for the farmers. This principle based on equality eventually guided him in establishing the NPA.  

The late president Aquino was threatened by them since their propaganda was believed to be grounded upon communism, the political theory based on the manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. From there she chose to empower military forces rather than listening to the needs of the farmers, the poor, and the underprivileged Filipinos who haven’t felt the change that was promised to them. 

A rustling of leaves: Then and now

Thirty-two years since its first release, A rustling of leaves: Inside the Philippine revolution remained relevant in these trying times, portraying an eye opening and in-depth visualization of the injustices that many Filipinos faced over the years. More than the aftermath of a dark era, the documentary also uncovered the truth about Aquino’s regime, built upon the lie that her administration brought a promising change for the country, only to show no significant change from the inhuman oppressors. 

The same injustices before still happen today as the current administration continued to legitimize brutality against critics. Despite the life-threatening risks, present-day activists continue to risk their lives, expressing the nation’s troubles,  and pushing for social change. 

For instance, a human rights activist named Zara Alvarez was shot dead in the City of Bacolod by unidentified perpetrators. Her name was listed with more than 600 people that the Department of Justice (DOJ) wanted to declare as terrorists in a proscription case filed in February 2018.  

Alvarez was one among many other people killed, all in the name of fighting to change the corrupted system that the Philippines is submerged in. In the same month of August, seven days before Zara Alvarez’s death, Anakpawis Chair Randy Echanis was also killed. 


History truly repeats itself through the mistakes of the past that continue to haunt us in the present. Many years have passed, but the irony still lives on as democracy hangs by a thread.  A rustling of leaves fearlessly mirrored our past and present, showing us that nothing much has changed except for the reality that the truth became less heard, less spoken of, and less real. 

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